A nomad lady breaks down on the dead body of one of the horses killed by army casper in the intervening night of 24 and 25 Sep. (KL Image: Shah Hilal)

Kashmir Civil Society for Developmental Studies (KCSDS)  on Friday condemned the  forces’ barbarity let loose against people, animals and the agricultural and horticulture products.

“People have tendered with their sweat and blood and is the only resource for their sustenance be they Bakarwals whose thirteen horses have been trampled over allegedly by army vehicles as per reports or the standing paddy fields and haystacks collected with  intense hard work that have been set on fire  or the packets of apples delicately assembled and patterned by deft hands to earn their livelihood that have been trampled over in Karimabad by army trucks to break peoples’ will and resistance against the authoritarian state,” KCSDS said in a statement issued this evening.

“These are unprecedented war crimes committed by those who claim these as their own people. Yet the worst came yesterday when all the volunteers have been arrested and their ambulances seized and stalls have been forcibly closed down who stood like a rock these three months of bloodbath and horrors of pellets and bullets in terms of blindings and firearm injuries when government had completely disappeared from the scene,” the civil society group said.

“The crimes are such that have exceeded all savageries. The poor Bakarwals and those whose produce has been destroyed have been devastated. The volunteers who have rendered enormous service to the injured and the blinded, human rights activists and employees must be released without any delay and allowed to serve. The ambulances should be returned immediately. Such tactics only compound hatred and fury and do not break anybody’s will,” the KCSDS maintained. http://www.kashmirlife.net/day84-burning-of-harvest-damages-to-orchards-killings-of-horses-are-war-crimes-says-kcsds-119344/




Iftikhar Gilani

While the three months long popular agitation, following the death of Hizbul-Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani, and the recent killings of 18 soldiers in the border area of Uri, has plunged the region into a war hysteria, some sensible individuals, instead of relying on the information provided by the Government and the media, have on their own been trying to reach to the depth of the situation. I am experiencing this almost every day in Delhi.

Recently a journalist, working for a Hindi language magazine, barged into my office and showered onto me, in one breath, a series of questions like pallet guns. I advised her to, instead of depending on my responses, travel to Kashmir herself  and then personally apprise me of the situation as well on her return.

Similarly, few weeks ago, prominent Hindi and Marathi journalists Santosh Bhartiyaand  Ashok Wankhede, were also curious to know about the situation. They were perplexed why on earth the Kashmiris have stood up against the country’s democratic setup?

I advised them too to travel to Srinagar and, if possible, go to the regions of Chenab valley and Peer Panchal, with open minds.

These two journalists and the known analyst, Professor Abhay Kumar Dubey, spent four days in Kashmir.

Santosh Bhartiya has also served as a Member of Parliament and is known to be very close to BJP leaders, specially the Minister of State and former Army Chief Gen. V.K .Singh (Retired). After his return Mr Bhartiya wrote a detailed letter to his former colleague, Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The difficulty for news channels is that they cannot even condemn these guys as rebels and unpatriotic because until recently all of them had been supporting the government and the army on Kashmir through these very channels. All three intellectuals said that this visit has opened their eyes and minds that had, until now, been blocked and blinded by the national media and the government. I am here producing some excerpts from Santosh Bhartiya’s letter written in Hindi:

‘Dear Prime Minister, I have just returned, after a four days’ tour of Kashmir. During these four days I stayed in Kashmir valley and feel that I should acquaint you with the situation there. I am certain that the news that reaches you about Kashmir, specially the valley, comes from government officials and is overly sponsored. There is very little truth in such news. If you had some kind of system that could, after talking to the people of the valley, apprise you of the situation and you could learn the truth directly, I am sure you will not be able to ignore this reality.

‘I have been greatly perturbed after visiting the valley personally. We do have the land because we have our army there but the people are not with us. I say it with full responsibility that from an 80 years old man to a six years old child, everyone is angry at the Indian establishment; all of them are so much angry that they do not want even to talk to anyone associated with the government. They are angry to the extent that with stones in their hands they are facing such a huge machinery. They are willing to risk anything, no matter how big and the biggest of which is a [possible] massacre.

‘I have been greatly perturbed after visiting the valley personally. We do have the land because we have our army there but the people are not with us. I say it with full responsibility that from an 80 years old man to a six years old child, everyone is angry at the Indian establishment; all of them are so much angry that they do not want even to talk to anyone associated with the government. They are angry to the extent that with stones in their hands they are facing such a huge machinery. They are willing to risk anything, no matter how big and the biggest of which is a [possible] massacre.

‘I am writing to you because you have the most important role in saving Kashmir from the [possibility of] biggest massacre [in its history].

‘A sense and feeling is developing within our armed forces that if anyone who raises his voice against the system in Kashmir is killed, annihilated and mopped off only then the separatist movement in the valley can be crushed.

‘The movement being dubbed as a separatist movement by the government is not a separatist movement. This is a movement of the people. If everyone, from an 80 year old to a 6 year old, chants “Azadi” [freedom] then we should admit that during the last 60 years we have committed a lot of blunders.

‘Security forces fire pallet guns but aim the upper part of the body not below. That’s why there are 10,000 lying inured there.

‘Dear Prime Minister, during my Kashmir visit I went to see the hospitals. In Delhi I was told that 4-5000 security personnel have also been injured. It is our propagation system that has been reporting these injuries that no one believes. If these injuries have taken place, then please take us the journalists to see where thousands of injured jawans are being treated.

‘We have seen young children who have lost their eyes and they will never be able to see again. It is this reason why I am writing this letter to you with deep emotions and feelings. On a number of occasions all three of us cried at the situation of Kashmir that we saw there.

‘Kashmiris are saddened and anguished because not a single bullet was fired at as massive [and violent] protest as the one launched by the Jats in Haryanaand no one was killed. In theGujjar protest in Rajasthan no one lost his life and no fire was shot at [by the police]. Most recently there was such a huge demonstration, regarding Cauvery river water, in Karnataka, Bangalore but not a single shot was fired. Why then bullets are fired in Kashmir, why at the upper part of the body and why even a six-year-old child is not spared?’

‘Kashmiris are saddened and anguished because not a single bullet was fired at as massive [and violent] protest as the one launched by the Jats in Haryana and no one was killed. In the Gujjar protest in Rajasthan no one lost his life and no fire was shot at [by the police]. Most recently there was such a huge demonstration, regarding Cauvery river water, in Karnataka, Bangalore but not a single shot was fired. Why then bullets are fired in Kashmir, why at the upper part of the body and why even a six-year-old child is not spared?’

According to Santosh Bhartiya, from a policeman to businessman, student, members of the civil society, journalist, members of political parties and government officials all told them that each individual in Kashmir has risen against the Indian Government. ‘The one in whose hands there are no stones, has a stone in his heart instead. This agitation has become a peoples’ movement exactly like the Quit India Movement of 1942 against the British rule. Or like Jayaprakash Narayan’s agitation in which the role of the people was more important than of the leader.’

This delegation has repeatedly questioned the veracity of the allegation levelled against Pakistan by the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers and members of the ruling BJP. According to Bhartiya, ‘Does Pakistan have the capacity to afford to pay Rs 500 daily to each and every stone pelting child? And is our system so weak that it has not been able to catch even a single person distributing Rs 500 to these children?

He asked Modi to ponder over who is going out on the streets to distribute Rs 500 during the curfew? Is Pakistan as big [and powerful] as to be able to raise all of the 60 lakh people against a country like India with a population of 125 crore?

He said that these statements and the allegations against Pakistan sound to him, and the Kashmiris themselves, like a joke.

Commenting on the role of mainstream media he writes, ‘Our colleagues have been so much dazed by their desire to be nominated for Rajya Sabha and to have their names registered in the history of journalism as first class journalists that they are playing with the unity and existence of our country. But, Dear Prime Minister, history is emotionless. It will see [dispassionately] these journalists not as patriots but as disloyal to the country because those that name Pakistan for each everything and see Pakistani hand in everything, are in fact [themselves] Pakistani stooges. They are creating an impression upon the minds of Indians and Kashmiris that Pakistan is a very strong, powerful and far reaching country.

‘Dear Prime Minister, when the reality dawns upon these lot—as a matter of fact I don’t care if they will ever be able to comprehend and understand it—what I am worried about is the dear Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi himself.  If history records Narendra Modi as someone who managed to keep Kashmir with India at the cost of  allowing a big massacre, that will perhaps be a very sad part of [our] history for future generations. [Instead] history should record Narendra Modi as someone who won the hearts [and minds] of Kashmiris and fulfilled the [unfulfilled] promises being made with them for the last 60 years. Kashmiris do not ask for gold or for silver. What they want is just the fulfilment of promises that we have made with them.’

According to Mr Bhartiya, this year Kashmiris did not celebrate Eid and did not wear new clothes. There were no festivities in any house. ‘Is it not a slap on the faces of all of those Indians who swear by democracy. What on earth has happened there that has turned their protest against the political leadership into a rebellion? The Kashmir where elections were held in 2014 and people had  participated in it, in that very Kashmir not even a single sole is ready to utter a soft word for the Indian Government. I am apprising you about the situation because you are the Prime Minister of whole of India, so that you may find a solution to the problem.’

The delegation observed that in Kashmir most of the people light only one bulb in their houses. Most of the households believe that there is too much to grieve about in Kashmir. So many people have been killed, more than 10,000 have been injured by pallet guns, more than 500 have lost their eyes and in a situation like this why should they brighten their houses by lighting four bulbs instead?

‘Dear Prime Minister, I have seen people lighting only one bulb in a house. I have also seen in Kashmir how stones are put on the streets at 8 AM. Those very boys who put these stones remove them at 6 PM. In the morning they throw stones and in the evening sleep inside their houses fearing being picked up by security personnel never to return back. Such a situation was not seen there even during British rule. Whatever we have read in history such fear was not there [during British rule].

‘This is the first time when the agitation has spread to villages as well. On every tree, on every mobile tower Pakistani flag has been put up. Many people do not feel embarrassed in admitting that Kashmiris celebrate the victory of Pakistani team over Indian team to tease and taunt at India and its government. They do not celebrate the victory only of Pakistan but rejoice at our defeat the same way  by New Zeeland, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.  They express their opposition and disapproval for us by rejecting the happiness of Indian government in any and every way they can.

‘Prime Minister, does India not need to understand this psyche? If Kashmiris are not with us, then what will we do with keeping the land of Kashmir with us?’

Let’s pray that what Santosh Bhartiya and his colleagues have said make way into the hearts of Indian leaders and thus South Asia really becomes a land of peace and tranquillity.

Iftikhar Gilani is a senior Kashmiri journalist based in Delhi. He can be contacted at iftikhar.gilani@gmail.com

Translated by Urdu Media Monitor.Com from Jadid Khabar, Delhi, 29 September 2016

Injured Zahid





Srinagar: Kashmiri students studying at Ganga Institute of Management and Technology in Haryana alleged they were beaten up and harassed by their counterparts and security guards in the campus.

Students who called Kashmir Reader said a student Mujahid Zahid got injured after he was severly beaten up.

“Police came to the campus but did not take any action. We feel insure. We are here harassed by students, staff and security guards of college. Many students were beaten up,” they said adding Zahid was been removed to hospital.

Kashmiri students beaten up in Haryana college

                        Resistance is Existence

Coordination of Democratic Rights Organization denounces the arrest of Khurram Parvez on the intervening night of 15-16 September at 12.30 AM from his house at Srinagar. He had returned from Delhi in the very morning of 15th September after being detained for nearly two hours and prevented from travelling to Geneva for the UN Human Rights Council’s meeting.
Khurram Parvez is chairpersons of Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) and Coordinator of Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies. Reports say that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was not aware of the arrest. J&K Police have refused to specify the charge against him and it is unofficially said that he has been taken into Preventive Detention. We fear his detention under the draconian Public Safety Act, which has seen thousands of Kashmiri people suffered under years of detention without being charge-sheeted for having committed any crime.
His arrest is a signal to the civil society in J&K to become mute over the gross and egregious atrocities inflicted on the people and violation of all International Humanitarian Laws and India’s Constitutional rights. The spree of killings since July 08, 2016, has seen 84 dead, blinding by pellet guns of more than 200, injuries caused to more than 12,000 persons, night raids, arrests of more than 1000 persons, and now the renewal of dreadful Army operations “Calm Down” in South Kashmir. These are all hallmark of a ruthless and illegitimate authority trying to yet against militarily suppress a people whose eminently democratic demand is for exercising their right of self-determination.
Crimes and acts of brutality committed by the Indian State were documented by JKCCS, through their rigorous research and analysis was brought before the public. Their reports on Mass Graves, Enforced Disappearances, Massacres, Rapes, Custodial killings etc are testimony to their labour. They took up and fought case legally by moving the judiciary, as they did in the Handwara girl case recently which exposed the police leadership for their torture of a juvenile girl in their illegal custody. It is to silence such voices from highlighting the brutal military operations currently underway in Kashmir,  is why Indian State is cracking down on them. Our rulers are scared that Truth will singe them and therefore, do not want the Indian public to know anything about what the soldiers are being made to do to crush the civil disobedience by the populace.
We appeal to the India’s democratic minded that their silence and conspicuous absence of outrage over the crimes inflicted on people in Kashmir and the arbitrary arrests, an ongoing saga, is encouraging the Indian State and its clones in the media from persisting with their sinister policy and distorting the real story of J&K people’s struggle against oppression and manipulative politics for 68 years. If all this seven decades of military suppression have not erased the demand for referendum we urge everyone to take heed of this un-suppressible mood of the people. We therefore appeal to Indians democratic minded to stand up against oppression and in support of right of self determination by all the ‘state subjects’ of Jammu and Kashmir, so as to bring to a close India’s horrific seven decade old record of crimes committed against the people.
Therefore, we demand:
1. Khurram Parvez’s unconditional release;
2. Withdraw all legal immunity given to security forces;
3. Ban use of pellet guns;
4. Release all the arrested;
5. Restore civil liberties of the people
6. Begin the process of de-militarization
7. Begin the political process for ascertaining the democratic will of all the people of J&K.

Signed by
Coordinators of CDRO: C. Chandrasekhar (CLC, Andhra Pradesh), Asish Gupta (PUDR, Delhi), Pritpal Singh (AFDR, Punjab), Phulendro Konsam (COHR, Manipur) and Tapas Chakraborty (APDR, West Bengal).

Constituent Organisations: Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR, Punjab), Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR, West Bengal); Asansol Civil Rights Association, West Bengal; Bandi Mukti Committee (West Bengal); Civil Liberties Committee (CLC, Andhra Pradesh); Civil Liberties Committee (CLC, Telangana); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR, Maharashtra); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR,Tamil Nadu); Coordination for Human Rights (COHR, Manipur); Human Rights Forum (HRF, Andhra Pradesh & Telengana); Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS, Assam); Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR); Organisation for Protection of Democratic Rights (OPDR, Andhra Pradesh); Peoples’ Committee for Human Rights (PCHR, Jammu and Kashmir); Peoples Democratic Forum (PDF, Karnataka); Jharkhand Council for Democratic Rights (JCDR, Jharkhand); Peoples Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR, Delhi); Peoples Union for Civil Rights (PUCR, Haryana), Campaign for Peace & Democracy in Manipur (CPDM), Delhi.

In this picturea taken on 22 March, 2013 eighteen year old Tariq Gojri (L) who lost his right eye to a  pellet gun allegedly fired by Indian police officials poses with family members during an interview with  AFP at his home in Khanpora.

AFP Photo/Tauseef Mustafa

The season of apples had arrived. Gulzar Ahmad’s garden in Jammu and Kashmir’s hilly district of Shopian had the air of another fruitful season. On the 16th of last month, he visited his garden to trim the grass. He has not been able to see it since.

On 9 July, the Indian security forces killed the 22-year old Hizbul militant Burhan Wani in Tral. The encounter was followed by a series of protests erupting across the Valley over the next couple of months.

One such protest broke out near 40-year old Gulzar’s apple garden when he cutting the grass, says his brother, Shabbir, 26.

Forces used pellet guns, which they call a “non lethal” weapons, to quell the hostile protestors. One of the pellets went right through one of Gulzar’s eyes while another slit the side of the other eye.


More than 800 such patients have been admitted to Srinagar’s government hospital with ruptured eyes since 9 July.

The pellets made of iron, covered with a millimetre of rubber coating, have cost hundreds their entire or partial eyesight. And the inflow of patients does not seem to be in the mood to shrink.

It has been more than two months since Wani’s killing but the Valley is still on fire. The number of casualties has crossed 70 and the curfew is still intact.

Normalcy has consistently eluded the Valley with Kashmiris demanding freedom from the Indian state and withdrawal of AFSPA, which gives unbridled powers to the armed forces to operate in the valley.

More than 5 lakh security personnel are reportedly deployed in Kashmir. With armed forces misusing their powers quite frequently, along with the feeling of being an occupied territory, the sentiment against India is constantly simmering in the Valley.

Observers say the assassination of Wani proved to be a mere trigger to fire the sentiment once again.

Thousands and lakhs have thronged the streets in protests in spite of being aware of the possible repercussions.


As a result, the government hospital in Srinagar is deluged with patients. Many of them have been operated upon several times but to no avail.

Gulzar has already had two surgeries. He is still completely blind in one eye, while the other works only to an extent. The gravity of eye injuries at the hospital have been too much to handle for the doctors here. “They are clueless,” says Shabbir.

It has compelled Borderless World Foundation, an NGO working in Kashmir for around two decades, to facilitate the visits of some of the most renowned eye surgeons in the country.


Dr Sundaram Natarajan, CMD of Aditya Jyoti Eye Hospital in Mumbai, is one of them. He has visited Srinagar twice already and performed 80 surgeries while his team has performed close to 300 of them.

Dr Natarajan has dealt eye injuries due to fireworks, has treated industrial labourers working without protective gear, and also operated punctured eyes of boxers in his illustrious career spanning 30 years.

He has treated injuries during Operation Blue Star in 1984. He has treated injured army men in 1986-87. But this has been the biggest challenge of his life.

The sheer number of patients, he says, is unprecedented. “The youngest was 5. The oldest 22. The age of the victims, along with the sheer quantum is something I have never seen before. They may call it non-lethal but the damage pellets are causing is terrible.”


The pellet guns are supposed to be used for crowd control. Even though the protestors often outnumber the security forces, pellet guns are always used sparingly, as a last resort of sorts.

PDP spokesperson Waheed-Ur-Parra said there are clear orders to the security forces to show maximum restraint while doing so. “A lot of the violence has taken place outside security camps,” he said. “It means the mob mobilised in front of the camp.”

Hostile protests, however, have broken out across the country over the years, but pellet guns are being used only in Kashmir.

Across the globe, they have been used to defuse protests in Egypt, Bahrain and Tunisia. But countries avoid using them on unarmed civilians because they cannot be aimed and are sprayed around to placate the hysterical crowd.

The perceivably excessive use of pellet guns causing ghastly eye injuries have caught the public eye so much that Rajnath Singh had to assure the authorities would think of another non-lethal weapon to deal with agitating civilians.


Founder of Borderless World Foundation, Adhik Kadam, says the manner in which the security forces have dealt with the protestors only accentuates their anger against the Indian state. “A teenager loses eyesight,” he says. “He would live with anger and bitterness for the rest of his life. Unfortunately, there are enough people out there to exploit that anger. Those blinded during stone-pelting today could well cause bigger destruction tomorrow.”

Ground reports suggest the protests have grown in direct proportion with the pellets. Slogans in solidarity with Wani and against the Indian state have become louder.

Kadam says that once mob vandalised a government ambulance but let the Borderless World Foundation ambulance go untouched.

Kadam, who has been dubbed pro-terrorist by a section of the society for working towards the revival of protestors’ eyesight, says we need to find out honest answers as to why young Kashmiri boys are readily picking up stones.

“A normal boy going to school sees an AK 47 at least 50 times in a day,” he says. “All those young protestors have grown up in this atmosphere. Is it normal to grow up like that?”

Shabbir, who has participated in anti-India protests before, says life in Kashmir has become hell. “The security forces barge into our houses at odd hours,” he says. “They do what they want to and leave. How do we not protest that?”


While the Indian government evidently reacted late to the horror in Kashmir, the separatist leaders did not show much of a promise either by turning away the all-party delegation.

Experts complain about the inconsistent engagement between Srinagar and Delhi, and say the talks are attempted only when Kashmir burns.

Amidst the political deadlock, the disaffected youth in the Valley are ignored, says Kadam, and humanity suffers the most. “We say Kashmir is ours,” he says. “But we are fighting for the land. We need to fight for the people.”

Meanwhile, Dr Natarajan is preparing for his third visit to Srinagar as patients and their families wait with baited breath. Hardly anyone has returned to their respective districts, for it would be complicated to come back to Srinagar amidst the curfew.

Natarajan is scheduled to operate 100 victims in the four days starting 20 September. Gulzar would be one of them.

By the time Natarajan arrives in Srinagar, Gulzar would have spent more than a month struggling to do the things he took for granted all his life. He was hit on 16 August. Just a day before, he had witnessed India celebrate its 69th independence day.



‘I was born in Hindustan. Why do we have to prove our Indianness every time? Would you ask this of a Bihari?’

Six Kashmiri Muslim students belonging to Sarhad, an organisation which brings semi-orphans from strife-torn regions to live and study at their school and college in Pune, share their hopes for their state and their experiences outside it. Jyoti Punwani reports.

IMAGE: A boy stands next to a wall painted with graffiti during a protest in Srinagar. Photograph: Danish Ismail/Reuters

They are young Kashmiri Muslims who have lost fathers or close relatives in the unending conflict in the Valley. Some were killed by the army, some by militants.

Yet, it is only when goaded into spelling out their stand on the current azaadi movement in Kashmir, as they were in a press conference in Mumbai’s Press Club on Thursday, that they mention their own tragedy.

Their obsession is not azaadi, or the Army’s long presence in their state, though the latter is never far from their mind. Their mission is different — how to get as many youth as they can out of Kashmir so that they can also avail of the opportunities they themselves have.

Six students belonging to Sarhad, an organisation which has been bringing semi-orphans from strife-torn regions such as Punjab and the north-east to live and study at their school and college in Pune, were in Mumbai to share their hopes for Kashmir.

They admitted their aims were limited. But, quoting Rabindranath Tagore, they said that a lamp may not dispel the darkness completely, but it can at least light up its surroundings.

These six have spent their childhood far away from the war zone.

Unlike most Kashmiris, they can read and write not just Hindi, but even Marathi. They help in Ganpati and Dahi Handi celebrations, despite knowing that’s forbidden in Islam.

“But we do so from a humanitarian point of view, not from religious,” said Zahid Bhatt, a law graduate doing his Masters in Political Science from Pune University.

The message these boys and girls want to convey is simple: Kashmir is not just terrorism or natural beauty.

There are ordinary Kashmiris who have normal aspirations which have never been fulfilled, who neither throw stones nor join the azaadi protesters. And the message they carry when they go home every year is that India is not just the Army and the para-military forces.

There are ordinary Indians who are ready to treat them with affection.

These six students were part of the first batch of 114 students from Kashmir who came to Sarhad in 2003 as children.

Their families sent them with Sarhad’s founder Sanjay Nahar because they wanted them to get away from their violent surroundings.

Two of Zahid Bhatt’s uncles were shot by the Army; the 12-year-old had started talking of taking to the gun.

Mushtaq Khoja’s father was killed by the security forces; his family committed him to Sanjay Nahar’s care when he was just 7.

He hails from Dardpura, a village separated from Pakistan by just one mountain and one river.

The journey to Pune from their villages was traumatic, recalls Rubina Mir from Kupwara, who was just 5 then.

“I had only been told that I was being taken to Srinagar. I cried all the way to Pune and for months after that,” she recalls.

She and Nasreen Bano, who’s from Kargil and a year older, were kept together in the train, yet they could not communicate with each other because their languages were different.

Language became the biggest barrier in Pune. Those from village schools spoke only Kashmiri. To add to their bewilderment was Pune’s climate, its buildings, its traffic. Perhaps the biggest adjustment was the food, which was not only vegetarian but completely different.

Most of the children came down with chicken pox and other skin diseases.

It took them six months to settle down.

“Sanjay sir and his wife treated us like their own children. And our teachers were very nice, teaching us Hindi with so much patience,” recalls Rubina.

Dilbar Khwaja, a student of their batch, this year scored 89% in Marathi, they say.

“A Kashmiri scoring so much in Marathi, imagine!” They can barely hide their pride.

Not everything about Pune was unpleasant, though.

Javed Wani recalls the amazement he felt at not seeing a single gun on the streets. “Even the policemen didn’t carry guns,” he remembers telling his family on the phone. “And no one stopped us and asked for ID cards when we stepped out!”

“We couldn’t believe that six months could pass without a single bandh,” says Zahid. “Back home, every week there used to be a call for a strike. It took us time to get used to living in an open society.”

If Pune was another world to them, they found that Kashmir was also alien to the average Punekar.

At first, parents in Pune didn’t want to send their children to a school where 114 Kashmir children had been admitted.

Zahid Bhatt recalls being told off when he accidentally collided with someone on a public bus: “You outsiders come to our city and bully us.”

“I am not an outsider, I am from Kashmir,” Zahid replied in Marathi.

“Of course you’re an outsider; Kashmir is in Afghanistan.”

While villagers were even more ignorant about Kashmir, Rubina found even her classmates in college (she’s in Standard XI) vague about Kashmir’s location, her language and her head scarf.

With Sarhad, they toured Maharashtra, living with locals, specially those notoriously averse to Muslims and to Kashmiri Muslims.

“After living with them for a few days, these people would tell us how mistaken they had been. Our mindsets also began changing,” they recounted.

“For most Kashmiris, Jammu is all they know outside the Valley. Beyond that is India, and India for them is the army and para military forces. We discovered a different India.”

IMAGE The six Kashmiri students at the Press Club, Mumbai, on Thursday. Back row (left to right) Nasreen, Javed, Manzoor; Front row (left to right) Rubina, Mushtaq and Zahid. Photograph: Jyoti Punwani.

The first few times they went home, they were looked upon with suspicion by their neighbours.

“Have they converted you,” was the commonest question.

Ironically, as Zahid said, “I barely knew how to do namaaz when I left my village. It was a maulana in Pune who was called by Sarhad to teach me everything about Islam.”

However, after some years, the suspicion changed to envy.

“My classmates dropped out of school; some work as drivers despite being educated,” revealed Javed.

“My village has three PhDs; seeing them jobless, 40 other youth decided to drop out of college,” said Mushtaq.

Javed, who is pursuing his Bachelors degree, ascribes much of Kashmir’s unrest to joblessness.

“Given our climate, pharmaceutical industries could have been set up. Apples are plentiful; we could’ve had fruit processing factories. The government keeps claiming it’s invested huge amounts in Kashmir. Where have the crores gone?”

According to them, the hopeless employment situation in Kashmir makes most youngsters long for jobs in India — not Pakistan, they point out.

“From the security guards at Srinagar airport to the youngsters in villages — all beseech us with ‘tell us if you know of any openings in India’. They come to study in Bengaluru, Bhopal, Pune, no one goes to Karachi. Whoever’s got the chance, has proved himself in India. Unfortunately, Kashmiri students are not welcome everywhere. If you reject them, where will they go, and what do you think they will do?”

As you talk to them, it becomes clear that it’s not just the lack of jobs that agitates them. The lack of “dignity” angers them as much.

The constant checking of ID cards by the security forces when they go home; and when they are outside Kashmir, the frequent questions about whether they want to be with India, are things they find intolerable.

Rubina left her village this time after Ramzan Eid, amid the ongoing unrest. There were no buses to Srinagar; she had to take an ambulance at night.

They were stopped by security forces frequently, and once even made to get off since there was no patient among them.  “I showed them my ID card, told them I had to go back to college; but they refused to believe me. The journey took the entire night.”

Zahid recalls a similar brush with the police in interior Maharashtra. “My university ID card was not enough for them. Finally, I was taken to the police station. It’s such things that can make teenagers hate India.”

Even at the press conference in Mumbai, a journalist asked Javed in private whether he wanted to remain with Hindustan.

“What does he mean? I was born in Hindustan. Would you ask this of a Bihari? Why do we have to prove our Indianness every time?”

But their years in Sarhad have given them a grounding so solid that none of this moves them from their goal: to bring as many youth as they can to Sarhad so that they can experience the India like they have.

“If Burhan Wani had just stepped out beyond Jammu and lived anywhere in India, he wouldn’t have become a militant,” says Javed.

Their long term goal is to go back and work in Kashmir, where Sarhad has centres. Javed wants to become a lecturer; Manzoor Bashir, who’s doing his Masters in English Literature, is a choreographer and dancer; he has also made a short film and acted in it.

“There is no dearth of talent in Kashmir; it just needs to be brought forward,” says Manzoor, whose father, a policeman, was killed by militants.

These youngsters, who are on a Jago Bharat yatra across Maharashtra, have no solution to the current unrest, for according to them, none of those who have the power to resolve the crisis want to do so.

“How come that despite the presence of the army everywhere, a Kashmiri can get a gun in 24 hours? Who is supplying these weapons and why are they not being stopped,” asks Javed.

“Everyone knows what’s going on in Kashmir; we sometimes feel they want it to go on.”

Hence, their conviction that it’s apolitical people like themselves who can make a difference to the youth.

Jyoti Punwani


Malala (File Photo)

“I call on the United Nations, the international community and India and Pakistan to work together with utmost urgency to right these wrongs’ – Malala.

Pakistan’s teenage Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai on Tuesday called on the UN, Pakistan and India to come together and halt the ‘inhumanity and heartbreak’ in Kashmir. Malala was quoted as saying by Dawn: “The Kashmiri people, like people everywhere, deserve their fundamental human rights… They should live free of fear and repression.”

“I call on the United Nations, the international community and India and Pakistan to work together with utmost urgency to right these wrongs, providing the people of Kashmir with the dignity, respect and freedom they deserve.”

She added: “Dozens of unarmed protesters have been killed and thousands wounded, including hundreds of people blinded by pellet guns used to put down demonstrations, many schools have been closed… keeping children away from their classrooms.”

“I stand with the people of Kashmir,” she said. “My 14 million Kashmiri sisters and brothers have always been close to my heart.”

Pakistani army chief says Islamabad will continue to support the sacrifices of Kashmiri people

Pakistan army chief General Raheel Sharif on Tuesday described Kashmir as Pakistan’s “jugular vein” and said Islamabad will continue to support the people of the Valley on the “diplomatic and ethical” fronts.

“We salute the great sacrifices of the people of Kashmir for their right of self-determination. The solution of the problem lies in the implementation of the resolutions of United Nations in this regard. Pakistan will continue to support Kashmir on the diplomatic and ethical fronts,” said the chief of army staff, addressing a ceremony held at General Headquarters in Rawalpindi to mark the country’s Defence Day.

General Raheel praised people of the Valley for rendering “innumerable sacrifices”.

The army chief asserted that “the defence of Pakistan is invincible”. “I want to make it clear to all the enemies that the defence of Pakistan already strong but now it has become invincible,” he was quoted as saying by theExpress Tribune.

On the challenges the country is facing, he said: “I want to make it clear that we are fully aware of all covert and overt intrigues and intentions of our enemies. Be the challenge military or diplomatic; on the borders or within the cities, we know our friends and foes all too well.” On Pakistan’s ties with China, the army chief said the greatest example of a relationship based on mutual respect and principle of equality in the region is the Pak-China friendship.

“China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the paramount evidence of this relationship. I would like to assure that we shall not allow any external force to obstruct it and any such attempt will be dealt with iron hands,” he said.

General Raheel said the Operation Zarb-e-Azb against terrorists had achieved its objectives to confront terror, saying the armed forced will go to any limit to ensure Pakistan’s security.

He praised the military, police and other law enforcement agencies for their “utmost efforts” to establish law and order in the country.

“There is a need to implement the National Action Plan and break the nexus between corruption and terrorism to fully consolidate the successes of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in the entire country,”

With PTI inputs.